South Africa have a considerable amount of catching-up to do to reach the same white-ball standards as a team like England, according to their coach Mark Boucher.
Speaking after South Africa failed to win a match in a home T20 series for the first time in the format’s history, Boucher acknowledged that England are in a different class when compared with other teams.
“England are step ahead of, not only us, but quite a few different teams in world cricket,” Boucher said, after the team’s defeat in the third T20 at Newlands. “We’ve got a way to go. If you look at this England team, when they got together probably in around 2017, they were also asking a lot of questions of themselves trying to find a balance that was going to suit their style of play. These guys have won a World Cup and are oozing with confidence. Their players are a lot more developed than what our players are. Our job is to get our guys in our team feeling what these guys are.”
Boucher and his support staff’s work has been made many times more difficult by the almost nine-month period of inaction forced upon the national team by the coronavirus pandemic, and its effects on team selection, both of which left South Africa “exposed” in certain areas.
“We didn’t have allrounders due to various reasons so we lacked a sixth bowler. You can’t hide behind that. Sometimes in T20 cricket, you’ve got a bowler who goes. And most teams, especially a team like England, tend to fancy a particular bowler on one night and you need a bit of cover for that individual, and we haven’t been able to do that,” Boucher said.
Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo have both been unavailable for selection for this series which forced South Africa to field XIs made up of specialists. They opted for a six batsmen-five bowler split, which meant they had no alternative but for each bowler to deliver a full quota of four overs. In the first match, they tried to use Heinrich Klaasen for an over of part-time spin, which backfired, while in the second, Lungi Ngidi was costly and in the third, Lutho Sipamla and Tabraiz Shamsi leaked runs, but South Africa had no-one else to attempt to apply the brakes.
While Boucher was mostly satisfied with the team’s batting efforts, he lamented the lack of a left-hander, with David Miller also unavailable for this series. “Maybe (we could also have had) a left-hander in the middle-order, especially to a legspinner like Adil Rashid who turns the ball in to the left-hander. It showed in the England batting line-up how valuable that can be,” he said.
Despite the forced absence of some first-choice players, Boucher insists South Africa are beyond the trial phase of their T20 World Cup preparation and want to fine-tune rather than figure out their overall squad. “We haven’t been experimenting. We’ve been using the resources that we’ve had,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of unfortunate circumstances that caused us to play combinations that we knew were not correct but we had to do it. We want to get into a situation where we are solid on a T20 squad.”
He also defended the team’s demonstration of their new aggressive, but smart, style of play, which has yet to be fully explained. It seems to suggest a more proactive approach to shorter formats than is usual for South Africa, who tend to err on the side of caution. Boucher said he felt the team showed signs of clever thinking, even though it didn’t always work in their favour.
“I do think they were smart. We were thrown a couple of curveballs,” he said. “A smart decision would be to play six bowlers but the balance of the side wouldn’t have worked out. On the field, I like the core group of guys to make decisions, and they made those decisions. We continuously talk about smart decisions and what we felt we did right and what we felt we could do better. We want to keep growing.
“In the first two games, we were smart, we just didn’t play the big moments that well. If you look at the games, it came down to one or two overs that cost us. That’s just big moments that we didn’t play as well as England did and hence the results. The first two games were a lot tighter than people may think. This game not so much. I thought we had enough runs. We just didn’t execute with the ball and England are a powerhouse side and they are going to punish you.”
Balking at the big moments has often been a criticism levelled against South Africa, but that’s not something they can dwell on right now. Rather than a close scrutiny of what they didn’t do in this series, Boucher hopes his squad can apply a wide lens to this series and see it in the context of their rebuilding process and the summer ahead, as they look to close the gap between themselves and teams like England.
“Days like today are tough because we haven’t won,” he said. “We will try and encourage the guys that they need to trust the bigger picture. There are a couple of hard lessons being learnt at the moment but we are not going to quit. We are here for the long haul.”
Recent Match Report – Yorkshire vs Leics North Group 2021
Yorkshire given scare in defence of massive 240 in aggregate record for Blast
Yorkshire 240 for 4 (Bairstow 82, Lyth 51, Brook 48*) beat Leicestershire 222 for 8 (Inglis 82, Willey 3-44) by 18 runs
Leicestershire, 146 for 3 in the 13th over with opener Inglis unbeaten, later slipped to a fourth straight North Group defeat. But Inglis ensured they fought to the death at 222 for 8.
This was Yorkshire’s second win in three North Group games, and 462 runs combined equals the Blast record.
The triumph was built on a 113 opening partnership in 10.1 overs between Bairstow and Lyth, with further half-century stands for the third and fifth wickets.
On a glorious Leeds evening, there were 29 sixes hit.
Each of the Foxes six-man attack was taken to task after home captain Willey had won his side’s 10th toss in 11 in all cricket in 2021.
Afghanistan seamer Naveen-ul-Haq claimed two wickets, getting Willey and Bairstow caught in the deep in the 17th over. That left Yorkshire at 189 for four.
Fellow quick Gavin Griffiths had a night to forget, conceding 60 in three overs, as Bairstow set the tone, giving the Foxes fielders little chance with his power.
Leicestershire’s chase was always going to be a mountainous task. But that suited the dashing style of 26-year-old opener Inglis, who emigrated to Perth just before turning 15.
Having lost Scott Steel to Willey in the first over, Inglis and Arron Lilley took their side to 50 for 1 after only 3.4 overs to threaten a miracle.
Thompson had Ackermann caught in the deep and then brilliantly caught former under 11s team-mate Inglis one-handed at deep cover off Matthew Fisher.
That left 95 needed off 7.3 overs with six wickets left.
Ben Mike’s 31 helped the target to 31 off two overs and 23 off the last – with three wickets in hand. But Willey comfortably defended that and finished with 3 for 44.
Recent Match Report – Essex vs Sussex South Group 2021
Skipper slams 75 from 44 to help make short work of small chase
Sussex 130 for 3 (Wright 75) beat Essex 128 for 8 (Garton 3-31) by seven wickets
The Blast’s all-time leading run-scorer missed the opening two rounds after splitting the webbing in his hand while practising fielding on the eve of the competition. But he made up for lost time by bringing up his fifty in 33 deliveries as Sussex chased down Essex’s below-par 128 for eight with 36 balls to spare.
Wright looked at home right from the start, with boundaries from his second and third deliveries – two of eight fours.
Opening partner Phil Salt earned a life when he bludgeoned a full toss to mid-on, only to earn a reprieve for the umpire to judge the ball to have been above waist-height, much to Simon Harmer’s chagrin. Salt was run out for 13, after putting on 54 with Wright before Travis Head added 60 together with the skipper.
Wright continued to his 26th Blast half-century, going past 8000 T20 career runs, with a pair of straight sixes and another over cow corner. He departed with six still needed but Delray Rawlins clattered the winning runs over long-off soon after.
Wright’s day had started perfectly as he won the toss and stuck the hosts in – although Will Buttleman struck successive sixes in the fourth over. On a used hybrid pitch, scoring proved difficult for Essex with only Buttleman, Michael Pepper and Jimmy Neesham’s strike rates topping 100, for those who reached double figures.
The strain on scoring was exemplified by the last over of the Powerplay, which saw just one run, as Paul Walter struggled to lay a bat on Chris Jordan – the run rate throughout the innings hovering just below seven an over.
To add to the Eagles’ woes, wickets were a regular occurrence. Tom Westley and Buttleman fell in the Powerplay – the former picking out deep midwicket off George Garton and the latter slapping a Tymal Mills slower ball to cover.
Walter was stumped, Ryan ten Doeschate clubbed old pal Ravi Bopara to long off, Pepper – having scored 38 off 25 balls – drilled to extra cover, Harmer miscued to midwicket, Jack Plom skied to mid-off and Neesham was comprehensively bowled.
Garton ended up with 3 for 31, with Mills, Jordan and Bopara all going at under a run-a-ball.
Recent Match Report – Hampshire vs Middlesex South Group 2021
Imposing Hampshire target overhauled with two balls to spare in outground thriller
Middlesex 217 for 7 (Cracknell 77, Simpson 62) beat Hampshire 215 for 6 (Short 48, McManus 47, Weatherley 41) by three wickets with two balls to spare
Middlesex pulled off their second highest T20 chase – by three wickets with two balls to spare – in a memorable match at Radlett which saw the next generation take charge of a county going through a difficult transition, and leave another ailing T20 side, Hampshire, fearing that they don’t seem to be in much of a transition at all.
Radlett is about as far away from the ECB’s vision of T20 cricket as it is possible to be. The dream is maximum revenue from large stadia, a football-style atmosphere and a sense of theatre that delights a TV audience. Start an overly loud, alcohol-fuelled chant at Radlett and you may be blackballed from the golf club or become the subject of gossip in the Ladies Circle.
Hampshire’s first 200-plus total for three years was eminently chaseable in perfect batting conditions. But patently not by Middlesex, most of their supporters would have suggested. At 30 for 3, with Morgan trudging off, having reached at a very wide one to hole out at deep backward point, a philosophical kind of pessimism had taken hold.
Radlett is an idyllic county ground: a good batting surface, a ground lined by trees and hedges, and a convivial crowd adopting a Country Show attitude to any minor privations in the marquees and the portable toilets. They were allowed not far short of 1,000 spectators which is roughly the same as some of the smaller county grounds, which have stands and things. All to do with pinch points apparently.
They were on the verge of a colossal Powerplay with 68 garnered from the first five overs and Vince and D’Arcy Short in a blissful world where they could do much as they pleased. With Middlesex lacking five pace bowlers because of injury or (in the case of Tom Helm) recovery from Covid-19, a colossal score looked on the cards.
Then came Cullen. Three off the first over; Vince’s head-high hook falling to deep backward square in his next. In his final over, he twice troubled Hampshire’s ex-Middlesex man, James Fuller, twice for pace, the first of them gloved to third man.
Cullen, a former England U19, has played for Middlesex since the U10s, and both player and club are beginning to reap the reward of years of endeavour. Pacey, with a strong action, he can reputedly swing the ball in four-day cricket, but here, he adapted intelligently and hit the pitch. The assessment of Middlesex’s director of cricket, Angus Fraser, that he “bowls like a grown man” could not have been more apparent.
Green’s night did not begin well. He averages below seven runs an over in a career spanning more than 70 matches, making him beloved of T20 aficionados, and he was also on the back of a five-for against Kent, with four wickets taken in the final over. He was Middlesex’s most expensive bowler, leaking 55 from four overs as his method of pushing it fast and wide across the right-hander brought no dividends.
Middlesex missed chances in the field, and a succession of shots escaped clawing fingers. The most damaging, in more than one sense, was Sowter’s drop of Dawson, running in from deep backward square, his right ankle sprained in the process. But not damaged enough for him to play a part in Middlesex’s uplifting victory.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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